Commissaries, food processors, distribution centers and more typically need to store products in a warehouse before shipping them to customers. These facilities also typically carry ingredients, supplies and food items in bulk while they wait to be utilized.

These large numbers of stored products make inventory management an important step in food processing and distribution.

Companies like Apex Supply Chain are helping production facilities make inventory management easier and more efficient for their employees.

“It’s easy to devote too much time and resources to manually managing their mobile devices, or not managing them at all, which decreases productivity while increasing costs,” says Kent Savage, founder and CEO of Apex, based in Mason, Ohio. “Similarly centralizing this equipment also leads to lost productivity.”

Apex provides self-serve, automated locker solutions for mobile asset management. Employees scan their badge to access a mobile inventory device in seconds. This helps facility managers track, control and manage mobile devices, including handheld scanners.

Savage says this solution provides many benefits, including the ability to establish accountability.

“By assigning each device to a locker, management knows who’s checked out what device,” he says. “They can even assign devices to different employees across shifts. If an employee doesn’t return a device after a shift, managers are automatically notified.”

Having inventory tools ready and waiting can also help eliminate downtime from misplaced equipment and automating these tasks typically brings a 40 percent reduction in repair and replacement costs, according to Apex. 

“And instead of centralizing management of the equipment in a single location within warehouses with several hundred thousand square feet of space, Apex lockers can easily be deployed across a facility to eliminate the downtime required to visit a centralized tool crib to check a device out and back in at the end of a shift,” Savage says.

Savage says employees will routinely hide their favorite inventory devices to ensure they can use them the next day. If a device is broken or lost, employees do not always tell management, making it difficult to ensure every employee can access a device as needed. This also requires companies to buy a surplus of devices, which makes costs add up quickly.

“Our customers initially wonder if automating this manual process can have a big impact on their operations,” Savage says. “But the high costs of mobile devices warrant this technology to ensure a proper return on this investment is realized. And while adding minutes to an employee’s shift may seem minor, consider these minutes across every employee, shift and location. The productivity increases are impressive.”

Apex customers include Casey’s General Store, Kraft Foods, Little Caesar’s and other foodservice companies. Savage says the self-serve solution can work in central kitchens, production facilities and even retailers with front-of-house needs.

“Self-serve automation can assist in front-of-house as well as back-of-house,” he says. “Consider how any technology investment will impact your entire facility — employees, customer and operations — to ensure you do not create new problems with new technology.”